Alex Neil believes Preston North End’s League Cup win at Leeds can kickstart their campaign.
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The Lilywhites headed to Elland Road on the back of two straight defeats on the road in the Championship at Norwich and Derby.
But a side showing seven changes from Pride Park on Saturday ran out 2-0 winners against the early league leaders.
Daniel Johnson’s early penalty after Louis Moult had been fouled just 43 seconds in put PNE on their way but Ryan Ledson’s red card for a wild challenge on Lewis Baker just before the half hour mark seemed to have halted the North End charge.
Brandon Barker’s stunning individual goal on the stroke of half-time was a real turning point though, the Manchester City loanee dribbling from his own half before firing home.
Neil’s men were then relatively untroubled in the second half despite playing with 10 men.
“This season we’ve performed better than the scorelines have suggested and you want to put it right as quickly as possible,” said Neil.
“We had a good season last year and we’ve spoken about not resting on our laurels.
“Last year is long gone now and this game will give the lads huge confidence in what they can deliver and hopefully we can kick on from there.
“It’s a different competition but it’s relevant in terms of who you’re playing and how you’ve played.
“Leeds have been fantastic this season and we have played very well to beat them.”
North End’s pressing caught the eye and Neil felt a clinical performance in the final third was the difference between victory in West Yorkshire and the near misses in the Championship in recent weeks.
“The gameplan worked at Derby as well,” said Neil.
“We nicked the ball five times in similar positions high up the pitch there and were in similar situations but when you don’t make them count the opposition get a bit of a lift and they build themselves into the game.
“The crucial thing for us is punishing teams when we’re on top and that was really the difference.”
With several strong performances, Neil has plenty to ponder ahead of this weekend’s game against Bolton.
Ben Davies captained a young side with Johnson, Barker, Moult, Chris Maxwell, Jordan Storey, Josh Earl and Tom Barkhuizen all in from the start.
“The difficulty we’ve got is they’ve run themselves into the ground,” said the PNE boss.
“So in terms of fatigue, recovery for Saturday is going to be important.
“Equally I thought there were some outstanding performances so my decisions come the weekend are going to be extremely difficult.”